10/23/2017 ~ See that slight arc of white above the Sterlite label? It tells me a black widow is living under the rim of my kitchen compost container. I can see that it’s built its web between the container and the Clorox bottle I left sitting there waiting for another use.

The black widow, which I saw once, is doing a tidy job of catching fruit flies, but … if I forget it’s there I might grab the lid latch and … get an unwelcome surprise. I suspect that in reality the black widow would be surprised and retire rather than bite me. Still.

I’ve taken a couple photos to show you what a typical black widow web looks like. Basically, it looks like the most common Halloween web used for decoration. It’s not the pretty garden spider web made with architectural precision.

The closeup above gives a clearer idea of the matted look of a black widow web. To see the fruit flies that it’s caught I’d have to enlarge the picture too much to fit easily on a cell phone screen. But, let me assure you, the web has been effective.

My task for this afternoon is taking the container outside and emptying the compost into my garden, TubTrug full by TubTrug full. With… gloves on.

8/29/2015 ~ In tying a sagging tomato branch, I noticed a spider on top of a black widow. At first all I could see of the black widow were its characteristic long, black legs. Given the arrangement of the two spiders, clearly the black widow had seen its day.

The spider on top, the winning spider, looked like a jumping spider, but not one with the red back.

When I took the picture, the top spider moved. I wish my picture had turned out clearer.



The next picture is somewhat clearer, but it shows the jumping spider above and a bit to the side of the black widow. When I found them, it was directly above the black widow, so that all I could see of the black widow was its legs.

“Because of their speed and eyesight, jumping spiders are capable of besting prey larger and more venomous than themselves…” Read more.

Daddy long legs spiders can kill black widows. I used to have black widows in the house, besides when they are under my rolling pots. Under the pots they seem to be safe from daddy long legs, but when they are roaming around… not so much.

In any case, the jumping spider has given me hope in my fight against Warren Buffett and his Wells Fargo.

Who knew I would be encouraged by spiders on my deck.

I forgot about spiders until last night when I went to check on the snail I put into a bowl with water and aquatic plants, after the snail had gotten air into its shell from an air stone. My goldfish had been batting the floating snail around, knocking it against the glass aquarium’s sides, till, hearing the racket I saw what was going on and rescued the snail. Only I’m not sure it survived. Waiting to see.

Black widow spider web. Does not look like a normal spider web.
Black widow spider web. Does not look like a normal spider web.

Anyway, when I went to check on it, there in the dusky shadows near the base of a huge pot I haven’t yet taken outside, for want of reconstituting its soil and planting it with seed potatoes, was a long legged, black, very black, spider. Basically, it looked like a black widow.

Although it was hanging upside down in its web, which is what black widows do, I couldn’t exactly see the red markings that distinguish black widows.

Darn it, I thought. Darn it. My plan for today had been to move the pot off it’s trolley and put a new rope pull in place. My enthusiasm was now dampened. And I was reminded that at some point not too long ago when I’d been moving the pot I put my fingers under the rim, where I encountered a web. I removed my fingers immediately.

When I brought the pot in last fall I was aware that it had a web, and one of the ones that’s made of very strong filaments, so strong you almost hear a sound when you break one. Which is exactly what black widow webs tend to be like.

Why wasn’t I frightened? Why didn’t I order Raid and spray?


Well, years ago I wanted to make pots. I had found that I could fire them in my fireplace, given the fireplace was in an adobe home with thick walls of adobe, i.e. it wasn’t going to burn down if the fire in the fireplace was really really hot.

I loved sitting on an old fruit crate I’d found at a friend’s and been given. I remembered when I found the crate that I didn’t want to turn it over. I just took it home and installed it in my living room where I used it as a chair when I made clay pots.

At the time I had a small cat, named Hannibal by Wolfe O’Meara, whose father was an author after having been in advertising. Wolfe told the story of his father being responsible for the popularity of cake mixes. Apparently cake mixes had been created, packaged, and distributed to stores where they consistently sat on shelves, collecting dust in their early days.

Wolfe’s father saw the problem as one of ease. The cake mixes were just too easy. They had everything in them but water. Where was the fun in that? Where was the sense of accomplishment for the baking housewife? Take out the eggs, said Wolfe’s father. Place an egg requirement in the instructions so that the housewife has to buy eggs, break them and beat them into the mix. Thus, the cake mix industry began.

Wolfe O’Meara

Just now, in writing this I googled Wolfe and found his obituary. My favorite line is, “Wolfe once remarked he shaved each morning with the crease of his own self-ironed shirt looking into the shine of his shoes.” Read more.

Wolfe was very different when I knew him in Santa Fe. I met him in Claude’s Bar on Canyon Road where he kept threatening, in one of the loudest voices I have every heard, to give me his Irish Wolf hounds because I was so tall and they would look perfect when I walked them. It was incredibly embarrassing to have him go into a shouting tirade, about my height.

He was a wino at the time. I was a school teacher at Cristo Rey. I once gave the principal, Sister Julita, a ride and the whole way to and from her destination wine bottles rolled out from under her seat and back again. I should have cleaned the car before giving her a ride. I had simply forgotten the consequences of having given Wolfe rides. Wolfe had become my friend, you see.

Wolfe O'Meara
Wolfe O’Meara

When Wolfe told me that police officers in Los Alamos wore enbroidered emblems on their uniforms of a mushroom cloud, I didn’t believe him. So we drove up to Los Alamos, where it turned out they did. We met a man there, I forget where, whom Wolfe said had been a pugilist. Baffled, I asked the man if he’d ever been a fighter, and he had. Wolfe said the man’s cauliflower ears were the give away.

Wolfe said, at some point, that he had John Brown’s last letter, and wanted to give it to me. I was honored. I got the letter framed with the best, most preservative paper available at the time, and hung it on my wall. It disappeared shortly thereafter. Wolfe had taken it back. Still, it was an honor to have it even for a short time, though I think perhaps John Brown was a prolific writer and had a lot of “last” letters.

Wolfe told me something that has stuck with me from then till now, and features in a lot of my thinking. He said that he had been married to, or lived with, I forget which, this model who had been on the cover of Vogue. He described her in that picture, she wore a large fur hat that framed her face, something like raccoon fur. I was sure, when he described her, that I had seen that very cover.

In any case, he said that she had been afraid, as long as he knew her, of a plane falling out of the sky and killing her.

Then, one day when she was hanging out the wash, a plane fell out of the sky and killed her.

The picture of Wolfe, which I found on the internet, posted by his son Alex, shows something about him which I most remember, and that’s his directness, his sort of total focus on something. I think the reason I can remember so much of what he said is that he said it with the impact of total focus. I hope Alex gives me permission to continue to use this image of his father, Wolfe.

Back to my spider story

I was sitting on my fruit crate, by the fireplace with a fire crackling away, making a pot that was shaped like a flower, when Hannibal began looking intently out the window, clearly focused on something. When I followed her gaze, I saw a face looking in my window.

Now, the window was at the back of the house where there was only a narrow space between the house and the back wall. The man looking in the window hadn’t just been passing by when he decided to take a closer look.

At the time I was friends with the hydrologist from the highway department. When I told him what had happened he brought me two different means of defense: a bow and arrow, quite an impressive set. The bow was nearly as tall as me, and I’m near six foot. The other means of defense was a little gun that shot tear gas.

Richard Morse, the hydrologist, said the mere sight of me stringing the bow would frighten away any man peering in with an intent to enter. I can’t remember if I told Richard that I took archery in university for a part of my P.E. requirement. At our first stringing of the bow, I followed the instructions with care. But, when the instructor said, “And, release,” I was the only one holding a bow and arrow in one hand. That is, I’d released with the wrong hand. Sigh.

(I feared I would never graduate university for want of completed P.E. credits.)

I probably told Richard. I love stories and usually can’t pass up a chance to tell one. I am reminded, as I write this, that in the Catholic schools I attended, grade school and high school, the one thing that was preached to aspiring writers was that you had to write from experience. Now, of course, I rather doubt that’s a hard and fast rule, since Dean Koontz is a successful writer whose experience is unlikely to be the source of his stories.

In any case, Richard said the little tear gas gun was another option.

My feeling about the tear gas gun, however, was that if the peeping Tom came in, and I shot the gun, we’d have to leave together.

These things were on my mind when I was going out the front door one day, and saw this really beautiful spider, a very spidery spider, shiny black with especially long legs. A very impressive spider, indeed. It was by the light switch by the door. I hadn’t ever seen it before and I was in a hurry so I just filed the encounter in my mind.

A few days later, I decided I should look under the fruit crate. I turned it over, and there was the shiny black spider. On its abdomen were a red set of triangles, the tip of one touching the tip of the other, forming a geometric “hourglass”.

I’m not sure if everyone knows that the way to identify a black widow is the red hour glass. It seems like something that would be shared till it became a kind of universal knowledge.

Despite the fact I’d been sitting above the black widow’s web for weeks, if not months, I totally freaked, pulled out, and abundantly sprayed, Raid.

The spider died, of course, but the image of it under the fruit crate I was sitting on when I saw the man looking in my window has remained alive, a particularly vivid image in my mind. It raises the question, What’s dangerous? I thought the man outside was dangerous, but there I was, sitting on a black widow. Then again, I’d been sitting on a black widow for a long time with no problem.

To this day I’m sorry I used Raid. Equally, I’m unclear what to do about the shiny black spider in my living room… right now.

Black Widow.

6/19/2014 ~ I took 17 pictures of the spider last night. It didn’t come out from under the pot until it was dark. The thing is, that since it was dark it was hard to focus on the spider.

None of the pictures shows the geometric red hourglass. I’m not sure whether that’s because it’s not a black widow, or because the curve of the spider’s abdomen hid the marking.

I was surprised the spider didn’t retreat at the first camera flash, but it didn’t. On number 17, however, it turned around and went under the pot.

My friend Rebecca sent me a link about identifying black widow spiders. The material is rather good, but the images are not. In my experience the red triangles that form the hourglass are really precise. Also, their drawing of the web is misleading since it looks like a regular spider web. The black widow web image I have posted toward the top of this page shows what they really look likt. You can see how vastly different it is from what we tend to think of as the shape of a spider web.

I found the site somewhere between worrying and funny when it showed putting a ruler close to the spider, to measure its size. And, the way the spider’s mouth looks is hardly as easy to see as the red markings. Still, you may way to Read more.


6/20/2014 ~ Well, I approached her from a different angle last night and could clearly see red on her abdomen. I think that if I didn’t have to use a walker I could get a really good shot of her since she doesn’t run away at the flashing of the camera nor at the bumping of chairs and things near her. The problem is that my walker takes up a lot of space.

My camera does not show red very well. When I bought it I chose it for the Leica lens and the clarity of detail. After I used it for awhile I discovered that it did not work well for red and was not showing the red line detail in the fingernail pictures I was taking.

Now I can’t get it to show the brilliant red against the shiny black.

I would like a clear picture because I don’t think her hourglass marking is as perfect as that of the first black widow I saw. I have to wonder whether decades of Raid have somehow impaired the perfection.

Black Widow close up, red hour glass not showing very well

Despite the shadow, I think you can see the shape of her body. It’s pretty distinctive.

Black Widow Red lightness to show marking

Bother, I didn’t get these images scaled to the same dimensions. Be that as it may, the light picture that’s rather dotty, shows where the red marking is. I thought that perhaps by adjusting the red in the picture I could make it clearer, but that didn’t work. Somehow the “lightness” adjustment produced this image which shows where the red mark is.

6/21/2014 ~ She didn’t come out last night, at least not when I went to see if she’d come out.

Now I’m a little worried that while she didn’t scurry away from the flashes, at least not the 12th, 13th and a few others, that after the second night of flashes she decided to look for another place for her home. i.e. is she roaming my home at this moment, looking for a new place to weave her web? Or, will she be roaming only after dark, when I will not be able to see her.


6/30/2014 ~ The black widow appears to be outside now, as a result of moving her pot so that potatoes can grow in the sunshine. I didn’t see her, but I did see that her web now extends to a nearby broken pot.

I’m only sad I didn’t reinforce the broken pot before she attached to it. Now when I reinforce it, I’ll have to tear her web.

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